Sometimes I wonder if it’s even worth bothering coding and designing websites when it’s on a volunteer basis.

Barely a year out of spending a fair few weeks on a site, ensuring it looks good and has the info available on all manner of devices; and it’s thrown out in favour of a $35 plugin that looks terrible on smaller devices, with too much bling instead of content, all probably because the new patron didn’t seem to want to do any actual backend work.


Unlocking TF2 Replay achievements, post-v2 API

ss (2015-06-20 at 04.54.32)

Google’s recent deprecation of the YouTube v2 API did screw up a lot of things for a lot of people. I had to change my feed reader from having a single unified feed for all of my subscriptions, into over one-hundred individual feeds that I have to keep in-sync with any channels I may newly subscribe to, or unsubscribe from. But it also seems that the method TF2 used for uploading and checking in on replays was also affected, as it was still using the v2 API.

All of this came about when I was just browsing reddit like I normally do, when I spotted this comment of someone talking about how to easily game the TF2 replay achievements for getting an increasing number of views on your uploaded replay (up to 100k):

With that information – as well as the fact that I was still needing the 10k and 100k achievements – I decided to start searching around in the files to find the file(s) that I needed to alter to get this method to work. After a little bit of searching, I found the files required – these are the individual .dmx files for the rendered replays and can be found in /tf/replay/client/movies. It goes without saying that you actually need to have a replay saved and rendered out for something to appear in this folder.

Opening up an individual .dmx file in a raw text editor (in my case Notepad++), looks a little something like this. Note that this particular replay render was already uploaded four years ago, which is why it has an uploaded and upload_url values. If your replay isn’t uploaded, simply change the uploaded to 1 and add an upload_url value.

Notice that the upload_url uses a YouTube v2 API URL to get the data of your uploaded replay video. Problem is, the v2 API no longer exists and any URL of that construction returns an invalid response in Chrome. To remedy that, you need to create an XML file that mimics the construction and layout of a single video v2 API call result. Thankfully the v2 API documentation still exists at this point in time, so you can get the text you need from the relevant Google Developers page. Do note, there is an errant extra closing angle bracket in the middle of the text around the <yt:userId> section – remember to remove that. This text is the contents of that fake.xml you saw in my movies directory up above.

Now just upload that XML file somewhere where TF2 will be able to access the file directly. I uploaded it to my account, and then changed the upload_url in the relevant .dmx file to match it.

Close and re-launch TF2 if it’s open. Then head to the replay section, choose the rendered replay that we edited, and then TF2 will check the fake XML file to fetch the video’s “data”. It will then read the data from the fake XML file, see it says over 300,000 views, and award you all the replay achievements at once. In my case, I already had the 100 and 1,000 view achievements, so I was awarded the remaining two.

Yesterday I caught up with some Facebook feeds, and saw that there was yet another new Irish convention being announced. So as what normally happens, I jumped straight to /cgl/ to find the Irish bitching threads that usually crop up around the same time as things like this happen. Sure enough, there was a thread there; and sure enough, the usual bitching was too.

Unfortunately, the thread was deleted between yesterday and today, so I didn’t get a chance to post this as a reply to someone who was wondering about the state of all of the various fandom conventions in this country; so rather than let it go to waste, I’m just going to post it here.

I do need to point out that this is a viewpoint on all of the conventions on this island that I am aware of that cater to a fandom – be that anime, manga, video games, sci-fi, TV shows, film, or whatever else. I’m not making any reference to conventions that cater to traditional gaming only (such as Warpcon, Gaelcon etc.) because there’s nothing really to remark about them. All of this island’s gaming conventions are run similarly well, and they don’t have anything like the level of drama that happens with the fandom conventions.

  • Akumakon – Petite, shy and very knowledgeable with great taste; but not many people visit her because she lives out in the sticks.
  • Kaizoku Con – New kid on the block, no-one truly knows him properly yet.
  • Potterfest/Pokécon – Weird autistic nerd who cares about one subject and one subject only. Many people try to pretend they don’t exist.
  • Anime Dublin – Good lad who invites you all around to his free gaff for a day of craziness. All you need to do is bring the cheap booze.
  • Aka-con – The one-night standee who tried to come to the family gathering to stir shit up in front of everyone, but failed miserably and slinked away without a trace.
  • “Ireland Cosplay Con” – Gullible sucker who has taken too much advice from some very bad influences overseas.
  • Q-Con – The master sensei. Knows everything there is to know, and does it all perfectly.
  • Arcade Con – Jack of all trades, master of none. Completely and utterly self-obsessed, to the detriment of others.
  • BroCon – Quiet lad who just wants to spend a weekend in the country with his mates enjoying what they love.
  • Nom-Con – Originally Eirtakon’s spiteful ex-wife, but has just finished rehab so who knows...?
  • MCM – Neighbourhood bully barging his way into affairs; letting people know of his existence by flashing the cash; does nothing to help everyone else; does it all for the money and the glory.
  • Dublin Comic Con – Homegrown, born and bred lad with great passion, but far too popular for his own good sometimes.
  • Eirtakon – The original knight in shining armour; but the armour’s become dull and worn, and the cracks are really starting to show.
  • Otaku Con – Boozer who sneakily tries to join the gang; unreliable and lies through his teeth about everything.

So I just walked out of Eirtakon…

So, a couple hours ago, I just up and walked out of Eirtakon after having the previous 12 months of anger, disappointment, hassle, and loads of issues that we as the committee as a whole swept under the rug, all come to a head at once in a massive outburst in the production office.

It came to a head when I posted this earlier, but a lot of events from before that will need to be explained first:

ss (2014-11-21 at 11.40.54)

Pretty much all of this crap started about 11 months ago when the new director was appointed, and I – having been the previous year’s PR, social media, webmaster, domain admin etc. – sent off a list of suggested changes for this year to help improve and streamline the whole to fix flaws that were exposed from the previous year. Mostly this involved combining two roles – one which handles tickets being sold at the door, and one which handles tickets being sold online befoehand – as well as setting up a PR Manager to oversee the various roles on the committee that involved public relations in some form, such as the social media rep, the main PR officer, those in charge of liaising with artists, traders, guests etc and others.

The entire mail and the suggestions within were completely ignored. That on it’s own, I could have worked with, but then I was also told that I was being assigned to the single role of web administrator, where my job was to manage the website and the backend Google Apps system. That’s it. I was well and truly pissed off, as at the time I was one of the few remaining members long-serving members of the committee (four years probably isn’t long-serving in most cases, but when it’s four years out of nine, it’s a lot) and I was being demoted to what felt like a random backend code monkey. I felt as if it was the start of a process of being forced out of the committee, despite my experience, because new people wanted to come in and make it theirs. I was speaking with a friend who had spent some time on the committee and they told me that they had felt that some other experienced people at the convention were slowly forced out in a similar manner.

About 2-3 months ago, our Director ended up calling on some of the old guard of the convention to “help out” as things were falling apart. One of those people was a guy I had worked very closely with on the committee for almost three years in the PR and web side of things. As it turns out, the amount of work that he had to do to essentially save the con this year – which by the way included creating the conbook on the left in the image above within the space of a couple of days, completing it with just a few days left before the con opened today – was the work that I had originally suggested be put in the PR manager role at the start of the year. It made me even more livid that my suggested new role, which had been completely scoffed at not only at the start of the year, but also during the year as well, had to be brought in to clean up the entire mess that happened this year, at least from a PR side.

I need to take a moment to talk about the directorship of Eirtakon. For every year since it’s creation, the director of the convention was voted on by the committee of the Anime and Manga Society – not the previous con committee. Also, the director, based on the charter of the society, must be a current DCU student. We got away with it up until this year, but when I heard our current director got the role, I was really worried as I had seen no signs of her being experience enough to handle it. I was even more worried with the co-director was a guy who had been incredibly useless and a terrible worker as the anime co-ordinator the previous year. Two people with one year’s experience each were running this year’s convention, and I was seriously doubting their abilities for the entirety of the year.

A lot of this article might be me comparing the inner workings of Eirtakon to what I know of the inner workings of Q-Con, up in Belfast. There’s a good reason to because Q-Con have run a superb and nearly flawless event for twenty years now. The main reason they have so much success is because they keep the experienced people who are still happy and willing to help out and they gladly listen to their advice and suggestion. Q-Con also has a board of five directors, mostly people with many, many years of experience; and all of them have a say in how the convention runs. Here, we had one person, and one person only who could run the whole thing like a dictatorship. That worked well about four years ago when the committee was still only about twelve people and the attendance was less than 800. Now the committee is over thirty-three people (not including assistants) and the attendance is over 3,000, including many returning attendees from abroad. Eirtakon has evolved from a college society shindig weekend, into an internationally renowned and respected event; but the committee structure has not evolved to follow suit, and I’m not going to sit around and wait for that to happen while the con falls apart around me, and I’m powerless to do anything to save it.

Irish turmoil for MCM Comic Con

A couple of days ago, the folks behind MCM Ireland Comic Con announced their days for their 2015 event. I was initially very surprised to learn that they had moved their event to the end of August, this moving them into the somewhat over-saturated summer/early autumn convention season. After sharing the news on Facebook, I asked the director for Nom-con next year as to whether this was an impact on them, as Nom has in previous years jumped back and forth between the start and the end of August. When I heard back that it wasn’t any impact on Nom, I thought nothing more of the news and left it there.

However, over the past day or so, I’ve noticed that members of the Irish comic community have been rising up complaining first about the move of MCM to be directly in between the two main homegrown Irish comic events – Dublin Comic Con in early August, and the Dublin International Comic Expo (D.I.C.E.) at the end of September – and secondly about MCM’s moderation on their Facebook page following multiple complaints and comments from both Irish comic creators as well as comic con attendees. It seems to have hit a head as the news has been shared by Irish Comic News, and their reaction isn’t the most flattering. Continue reading

Sticky OP, Volvo nerf plox

So Valve, I think that most players would probably agree that the Demoman’s Sticky Launcher is just a bit overpowered. Even though it’s been in the game since the beginning, the weapon needs a bit of a rework, as right now it’s just a bit too easy to “winbomb” with it.

Sticky = OP

Owing to the weapon’s flexibility in usage, it makes it a jack of all trades; but unfortunately, with the damage output that it offers, it’s also a master of all trades, which is terribly unbalanced. A recent thread in SPUF suggested nerfing the base damage down to 85, but I believe that that is a bit too much. Here, I line out my suggestions for a way to nerf the weapon without completely crippling it, and still allowing it to perform it’s primary role of area denial with ease. Continue reading

Bought a new phone

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been mulling over what to do when it comes to upgrading my phone from the terribly crappy HTC Explorer that was... *ahem* purchased for me last year. Initially I had was looking into upgrading to a Galaxy Note 3 at the end of my initial contract, albeit at a pretty hefty price – made slightly worse by the fact I’m currently on a FlexiFix contract; however, after some further research I settled on buying a Nexus 5 direct from Google Play.

New Nexus 5, compared to the old HTC Explorer

Price was a big thing in the comparison. To get a Note 3 from Three would have cost up to €559, with the best option for me would have been getting it for €189 on a 24-month Flex Max 350 plan at €40 a month. However, one of the nuances of Three’s upgrading system meant that my upgrade path was locked into a FlexiFix variant, and I would essentially have to cancel and re-signup at the end of the contract to move to a different plan type.

Instead I bought a 32GB Nexus 5 straight off of Google Play for €399, and a tenner for delivery – compared to Three, who offer the 16GB version for free on 24-month contracts or up to €349 on lesser contracts. Speaking of delivery, I can’t say enough about how quick it was. I placed my order at 2pm yesterday afternoon, it was dispatched at 5pm, and delivered to my door by DHL at half 9 this morning. If only I could get Amazon to deliver that quick...

I haven’t been able to use it much as of yet – spent most of the day today heading to the 3 store in the Blanch Centre to pick up a micro-SIM for the Nexus, and the Explorer used a full-size SIM. But from what I have been able to use of it at home, it’s brilliant. I can’t get enough of the speed and space, which is a massive far cry to what I had on the HTC. Picture quality is also very good, so I can see myself actually using it to take some decent pictures while out and about. Still getting used to the massive increase in screen size, my thumbs need a little bit of retraining to get used to the bigger keyboard and the different button layout compared to the HTC’s Gingerbread. I’ll also be able to test out the call quality soon once the new SIM is activated, as well as trying the 4G coverage – will have to see if it lives up to the hype, and decide whether it would be worth paying for when the trial period expires.

My main debate now is what to do once I finish out my initial 12-month contract in August: do I stick with a billpay on the €20 monthly rolling contract, or bump down to prepay? Rolling contract gives 350 flex units for calls and texts (of which I tend to do very little) and unlimited data; whereas prepay gives 30 days of unlimited everything with a €20 top-up.

However, my main concern with prepay is the cost of everything outside of the freebie bundle, especially data charges. One thing that my Explorer did was switch off WiFi when it went idle and got all the push notifications over mobile data. At least if I had a bill, there’d be no need to manually check if I still had my top-up bundle, check for credit, or end up in a situation where I have no credit and no money to buy more.
Still need to think about that a bit.